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ASEAN Start-Up Hub: A Culture of Tech Entrepreneurship in Singapore

February 13, 2016       Arts and Culture
Singapore as
Start-Up Hub

For members of ASEAN integration:
entrepreneurial technology specialists
have plenty of opportunities in Singapore

Who would have thought that the ASEAN region has the hottest place for tech start-ups and venture capital investment in Asia?  Tech specialists who want to be a part of a start-up enterprise in the ASEAN integrated ecosystem have been putting together successful start-up businesses in Singapore for the past 7 years or so.  Setting up shop is no problem.  Getting venture capital is not difficult provided you have the good stuff--a viable and needed tech service--usually an internet business that disrupts other current technologies then carving its own unique and heavily subscribed niche.  Singapore is now leading the regional hub as the place to be for start-ups and tech entrepreneurs.

Making good money--then cashing out either through an IPO or by selling the start-up off has been a monthly, business success story for plenty of Singaporean start-up tech entrepreneurs. 

And they move on to become venture capitalists themselves, investing in good ideas and sustaining a culture of entrepreneurship.  Hian Goh, a businessman, who co-founded the Asian Food Channel in 2005, then sold it to Scripps Networks Interactive in 2013.  Since that successful stint, Mr Goh has set up his own venture-capital firm to invest in regional entrepreneurial start-ups.  Garena is a popular regional gaming platform that has attracted more than 100 million subscribers (and driven its valuation above the magical US$1 billion mark)

In a span of 4 short years, Singapore has become the hottest place for venture capital fueled,  start-up, tech-entrepreneurship--from less than US$30 million in 2011 to more than US$1 billion in 2013.

Hundreds of start-ups are clustered in "Block 71", a fully-equipped smart building standing close to Insead, the National University of Singapore.  It is
home to over 250 of the best local and foreign startups, incubators, accelerators. 

The Economist calls Block 71, “the world’s most tightly packed entrepreneurial ecosystem.”  There is even a Block 71 version halfway around the world: in San Francisco; set up by a Singapore company and a U.S. partner.  It is the same type of co-working space and is specifically tuned for hotwire links between startup ecosystems in Singapore and the US.  Block 71 San Francisco aims to network Singaporean startups with U.S. partners so Asia can learn more about the U.S venture capital tech start-up environs and vice-versa for mutually productive exchanges and fast tracking tech business opportunities that arise.

The landmark Block 71 co-working building where plenty of tech start-ups have
their Singapore business address.

Singapore has had a unique turnaround from a mindset of staying content, (as the most stable economy in ASEAN)
where their best talent opt for working as an employee for corporate giants, or the Government; to a mindset of making new content via entrepreneurship and risk taking.  A decade ago, the government set up a dedicated campaign to cultivate a stronger culture of entrepreneurship from schools to exchange programs that included state incentives for locals to pursue innovation and creative ventures.

Singapore is already
home to state-of-the-art research institutions and since the country is driven by the need for innovative macroeconomic approaches for sustaining its needs, a culture for creativity and entrepreneurship via innovation and disruptive technologies has been set as its economic and cultural engine.  The country has liberal policies on inter-business competition, so cut-throat environments are not a problem and sharing and networking is fostered.  Singapore also offers good opportunities and less working restrictions for migrant skilled workers from the ASEAN region.

Why Choose Singapore?

Setting Up Shop Is Easy

Tech entrepreneurs and specialists can put up a business more easily than in any other place in the region.  New companies can be set up in hours, if not minutes.  Intellectual property is respected, and the rule of law is transparent.  The Island nation-state has a specific employment pass targeting would-be entrepreneurs. Sinagpore is a modern, clean and accessible city compared to Shanghai, Manila, Jakarta or Bangkok. 
The state even set up and encouraged support systems to attract innovative businesses and creative entrepreneurs: a new national stadium for events, and the best restaurants.

Image Credit:  Exec8  for  WikiCommons  CC BY-SA 4.0
Singapore's National Stadium is a modern ampitheater designed
to accomodate international sports events as well as an
entertainment venue for music festivals.

The Government Has a Stake in Your Success

When you set up shop in Singapore as a tech entrepreneur, the government will back you up with every penny you invest.

In 2008, under the National Framework for Innovation and Enterprise (NFIE), the Government launched the Early Stage Venture Fund (ESVF) programme. Dubbed the Technology Incubation Scheme (TIS), the program helped bring a flood of diverse investors into the country by offering to put up 85 per cent of the capital in a start-up when investors put in 15 per cent.  This critical support from the government boosted investor confidence to be based in Singapore.

Investors still have to make a real commitment: you pay for the salaries of your team while the projects are reared towards their most productive stage.

Start-Ups are a Challenge, Are You Ready?

Tech start-ups need substantial seed capital to get a business started.  Getting the best people for your team is still underrated for many--you have to pay skilled specialists and keep them happy working for you--or you tank. 

But for the ASEAN integrated community, entrepreneurial start-ups looking for seed capital checking out the scene in Singapore might provide some inspiration.  Safe, modern urban setting, transparency of business rules and laws, plus State-support for your success and an environment where the business cycle feeds success with more success. 

All you need is a good idea and the best team you can pull together.  ASEAN integration promises more gems going forward.


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